Inland Rail Condamine floodplain crossing draft design presented to landowners

A preliminary design for the Inland Rail project’s Condamine floodplain crossing in southern Queensland has been released and will be presented to communities in the region over the next two weeks.

The draft proposal for the crossing was first presented by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to the Southern Darling Downs Community Consultative Committee (CCC) at Brookstead on Wednesday.

Inland Rail project director for the North Star to Gowrie section, Rob McNamara, said that numerous design options and their potential impact on flood levels and water behaviour at individual properties within the floodplain had been examined.

“Our preliminary design was selected because it minimises impacts downstream and upstream and has minimal impact on existing water flows,” McNamara said.

ARTC consultatants developed a flood model that was used to assess design options for the crossing of the floodplain.

“A detailed flood model of the Condamine floodplain catchment area has been developed using data from different sources, including Toowoomba Regional Council, the Bureau of Meteorology and government databases,” McNamara said.

“We then undertook a program of validating the flood modelling through meeting with individual landholders on-farm to discuss historic flood events and property flood markers.”

The initial presentation to the Darling Downs CCCl is to be followed by a further two weeks of information sessions across the Darling Downs to communicate details about the crossing proposal with local community members.

“We will be presenting the preliminary design to the wider community to give them the opportunity to provide feedback. We want as much feedback as possible and I really encourage people to come to our sessions in November, so they understand how the Condamine floodplain crossing is taking shape,” said McNamara.

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack said that both ARTC and the government were taking steps to ensure communities in the region were listened to and engaged with the planning process for the route.

“Last year the Australian Government made a firm commitment to communities in the Darling Downs to focus on the floodplain crossing as a priority and we’ve followed through on that pledge,” McCormack said.

“After months of consultation and work with landowners and stakeholders, a preliminary design has now been presented to the community for their feedback on a workable solution.

“Over the next two weeks, the ARTC will be presenting this preliminary design proposal to the wider community and I encourage everyone to participate in this process.”

Season’s first domestic Viterra train heads to east coast

Glencore Agriculture has sent its first train of the season to Australia’s east coast to provide feed barley to areas affected by the ongoing drought.

A train was loaded with 2,800 tonnes of feed barley last week at Viterra’s Tailem Bend site in South Australia. It arrived in Moree, NSW on Friday, September 28.

Glencore Agriculture grain merchant David Wood said more grain will head in the same direction amid continuing poor seasonal conditions.

“Managing the logistics of grain domestically is a key focus this harvest,” Wood said.

“It is important that we are getting grain to the right place at the right time, safely and efficiently.

“We are working closely with many end users to meet shortages using the most efficient mode of transport. Rail, road, and coastal vessels are being used to move grain across and around the country.”

Viterra Group operations manager Michael Hill said Viterra was facilitating outturns to help meet the needs of growers.

“We have removed Export Select status for both rail and road movements at key sites to allow the outturn of grain locally and make it easier for buyers to deliver grain to Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland,” Hill explained.

“The strong domestic requirement from the east coast means that pricing through the network is not typical of traditional port based pricing less the cost of freight to port.

“Growers are strongly encouraged to look at individual site based pricing at sites strategically located for domestic movements to take advantage of potential higher prices.”

ARA to develop partnership with British rail association

The Australasian Railway Association and the UK’s Railway Industry Association have agreed to work more closely together to benefit rail supply industries in both companies.

The ARA and RIA announced their new Memorandum of Understanding at InnoTrans in Berlin on September 19.

Together, the associations represent roughly 360 members. The sides said they share many common interests and deliver common services in their markets, which face similar opportunities and challenges.

“Both the UK and Australian rail sectors are expected to see continued significant investment in rail, but face issues recruiting new entrants into the rail industry, upskilling those already in the sector, smoothing out rail funding pipelines, and promoting the benefits of rail as a key driver of economic growth,” the associations said in a joint statement.

Chief executive Danny Broad said the new allegiance would provide benefits to all members of the ARA.

“It’s an extremely exciting time to be in the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand with investment in new rail infrastructure and rollingstock over the next fifteen years forecast to be around $100 billion,” Broad said.

“Working and collaborating with the RIA on common industry challenges will provide consolidation of ideas for possible suitable outcomes for the rail sectors covered by both the ARA and RIA.”

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said the partnership would help members develop new trade links and cooperation, “which is especially important as the UK prepares to leave the EU”.

“I see lots of common ground to form this working relationship, for the benefit of both RIA, ARA and our respective members – and we look forward to collaborating in the very near future!”

Kaikoura earthquake rebuild nominated for international award

KiwiRail, NZ Transport Agency and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance have been named as one of the 10 finalists from around the world for the Institution of Civil Engineers People’s Choice Award 2018, having been nominated for their work to repair and reopen the Main North Line and State Highway One following the Kaikoura earthquake in late 2016.

The winner of the award will be determined by public vote. KiwiRail’s acting chief executive said that a large amount of support had come in from the freight industry and engineering professionals around the country as word spreads about the nomination.

“Being considered one of the top 10 projects in the world, and the only Southern Hemisphere finalist, is a wonderful recognition of the skills and dedication of everyone involved in this project,” said Moyle.

“This nomination demonstrates New Zealand’s strengths in engineering and emergency recovery. Just as important, however, is the well-deserved recognition of the hard work and dedication of thousands of workers whose efforts meant cut-off communities were reconnected, and freight flows restored quickly after that devastating earthquake.”

The Main North Line, which runs between Picton and Christchurch, is a major link in New Zealand’s transport supply network, with over 1 million tonnes of freight travelling between the North and South islands every year before the earthquake left over 150 kilometres of its length damaged.

Intense repair works allowed an initial restricted re-opening of the line in September 2017 for low-frequency freight services running five nights a week to allow repair and rebuilding work to continue. However, these were quickly suspended after exceptionally high levels of rain in Kaikoura, followed by another limited reopening of the line in November.

After being hit by Cyclone Gita in late February, freight services were once again briefly closed down for track repairs.

Despite the setbacks, the efforts of work teams from KiwiRail, NZ Transport Agency and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR), have meant that freight trains have been able to return to the line, with tens of thousands of tonnes of freight now being delivered via the Main North Line once again. KiwiRail is also looking forward to reintroducing its iconic Coastal Pacific scenic tourist train service in December this year.

“As the winner is being determined by popular vote, we are hoping Kiwis will show their appreciation for the tremendous efforts of all involved and vote for the project” Moyle said.

Voting will close for the award on September 26.

Adani ditches standard gauge plan for Carmichael, will use Aurizon network

Adani has shifted to a narrow gauge railway plan utilising existing rail infrastructure, in an effort to get its controversial Carmichael coal project off the ground.

The Indian energy company now plans to build 200 kilometres of narrow gauge railway linking the Carmichael site in the Galilee Basin to Aurizon’s existing network.

The original plan was for a dedicated 388-kilometre standard gauge railway to get coal from Carmichael to Adani’s export site at Abbot Point.

Adani Australia’s mining chief executive Lucas Dow said on September 13 the new plan would reduce capital costs for the rail portion of the project.

“By connecting to the existing network we can fast-track project delivery, reduce capital expenditure and deliver coal more quickly to countries in Asia with growing energy demand,” Dow said from Rockhampton.


Graphic: Adani Australia


The narrow gauge railway would follow the same route as was planned for the standard gauge route. Initial capacity will be 40 million tonnes per annum, to easily cater for Carmichael’s planned 27.5 million tonne production rate.

“We’re 100% committed to getting the Carmichael Project off the ground. Delivering practical, time efficient and cost-effective solutions such as this new rail design will ensure project benefits are realised as quickly as possible, especially in regional Queensland where people are eager to secure jobs and opportunities for small business,” Dow said.

Adani says it has all the necessary approvals and land access agreements to build the railway.

The new plan is an effort to clear funding obstacles faced by Adani getting Carmichael off the ground.

Adani was last year blocked from accessing $5 billion from the Commonwealth’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, when Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would veto the move.

Federal budget, tenders update, R&D highlight May-June issue

The latest edition of Rail Express magazine is now available to read in its digital, true-to-print format.

Highlights of this issue include a full review of the federal budget, including a $5 billion splash for Melbourne Airport rail, funding for Queensland’s north-south rail corridor and controversy over a new import levy.

There’s also a feature on tendering, which looks at some big wins in recent months for key firms like Arup, Mott Macdonald and Aecom.

And don’t miss our supplement on Below Rail Infrastructure & Network, where we hear from Siemens on how signalling can help Australia’s struggling passenger networks cope with rapid demand growth.

Click here to read the May-June edition of  Rail Express

$7.3m training centre opened at UoW

Federal education and training minister Simon Birmingham has officially launched the University of Wollongong’s new rail training centre.

ITTC Rail is the shorthand for the new Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Rail Track Infrastructure.

Set up to train the next generation of rail engineers, it is the first ever rail training centre to be funded by the Australian Government, with a $3.9 million ARC grant supported by an additional $3.4 million in contributions from the NSW Government and industry and university partners.

Headquartered at the University of Wollongong, ITTC Rail is designed to bring together rail track infrastructure expertise from all sectors of the industry, with eight universities and 11 national and international industry partners taking part.

“Given the dependency of the Australian economy on efficient heavy haul, there is a pressing need to upgrade ageing rail infrastructure by rejuvenating higher degree training with a new generation of engineers with advanced knowledge and practice skills,” ITTC Rail director Buddhima Indraratna said.

Professor Indraratna said improvements in the efficiency, reliability and cost-effectiveness of freight haulage can have significant flow-on benefits to the rest of the economy, increasing productivity in industries including agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

Commuter transport will also be included in ITTC Rail’s work, with a focus on how new materials, advanced manufacturing and innovative design and construction can benefit that sector.

“Australia also has some of the world’s heaviest as well as longest heavy-haul trains, exceeding four kilometres at times, with considerable challenges offered to railway engineers along problematic soil terrains,” Indraratna continued.

“Through specialist training of industry-focused researchers, ITTC Rail will meet the challenge of designing, constructing and maintaining the rail network.

“This will involve close collaboration with companies in the rail supply chain, programs to promote novel design approaches, and innovative fabrication of products using advanced manufacturing techniques.”

Minister Birmingham opened the training centre officially on May 23.

“Our commitment to rail infrastructure investment will generate jobs, ease congestion in our cities, increase the capacity of our freight routes and better connect regional areas,” the minister said.

“The Turnbull Government’s investment in the new training centre at the University of Wollongong will ensure Australia’s future workforce has the specialised skills and expertise to deliver on projects such as the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail, the Port Botany Rail Upgrade and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.”

Universities contributing to ITTC Rail are University of Wollongong, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Sydney, Queensland University of Technology, Curtin University, University of Queensland, Western Sydney University and University of Newcastle.

Industry partners are the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation, Metro Trains Melbourne, Bridgestone Corporation, Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp, Innovative Technology Beijing, China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, Ecoflex International, Geofrontiers, Polyfabrics Australasia, Nu-rock Technology and Elasto-Plastic Concrete.

Melbourne to host UITP 2021

The International Association of Public Transport has selected Melbourne as the host city for its massive Global Public Transport Summit in 2021, the first time the event has made its way south of the equator in over 25 years.

The association, known as UITP (Union Internatinoale des Transports Publics), announced Melbourne as the winning bidder for UITP 2021 on May 16, after it was shortlisted alongside Moscow and Hamburg late last year.

UITP said Public Transport Victoria would serve as the local host for the event.

“With the biggest tram network in the world and major projects expected to be well underway during 2021, it will be the perfect time to showcase what our city has to offer,” PTV chief executive Jeroen Weimar said.

Victorian public transport minister Jacinta Allan said the state was home to some of Australia’s biggest infrastructure projects.

“With our massive program of major transport projects like the Metro Tunnel and level crossing removals, it makes sense that the world’s biggest public transport conference wants to come to Victoria,” Allan said.

A GrainCorp shed at the Port of Portland. Photo: David Sexton

Take-or-pay deals could challenge GrainCorp

GrainCorp managing director and chief executive officer Mark Palmquist has warned a dry 2018/19 season could result in poor grain production figures, which would leave the receival and marketing operator in a tight spot in terms of its take or pay rail contracts.

Looking ahead to the 2018/19 season in a financial update last week, Palmquist warned prevailing dry conditions across most of Australia’s eastern grain belt would present serious challenges for growers, with dry-sowing occurring in many areas.

“The current production outlook emphasises the importance of the steps we are taking to diversify GrainCorp’s grain origination footprint while keeping a strong focus on managing our cost base,” he said.

“In the event of a smaller harvest, our existing take-or-pay rail contracts will present a challenge, however these commitments expire in FY19.

“Our new rail contracts will provide greater flexibility to manage transportation costs through the crop cycle, further reducing our fixed-cost base,” he said.

GrainCorp reported a 40% drop in crop production in Australia’s east led to a 64% decline in underlying net profit after tax in the first half of FY18.

It reported $119 million underlying EBITDA in the first half, down 49.6% year-on-year, and a $36 million underlying net profit after tax, down 64% year-on-year.

Palmquist said the grains operator had done well to deliver a solid profit despite significantly lower volumes.

“Our grains team has done a good job of adapting the network to the smaller harvest and closely managing its cost base,” Palmquist said on May 11.

“Pleasingly, the formation of the grains business unit ahead of harvest has been effective with improving performance in a low-volume year while also improving customer service, rail utilisation and absorbing the cost of integration.”

Future Parramatta light rail stabling site to be decontaminated

Infrastructure service provider Ventia has been awarded the contract to deliver the remediation works at the future site of the Parramatta light rail project’s stabling and maintenance facility at Camellia.

Beginning in July, the company will carry out works to address chemical and asbestos contamination at the proposed site on Grand Avenue.

Historically, the area was used for industrial and chemical manufacturing purposes going back to the 1930s, leading to soil and groundwater contamination.

The Camellia site will eventually be the location of the Parramatta light rail’s stabling and maintenance facility for the network’s light rail vehicles, and will also house maintenance buildings and a control centre.

Ventia’s CEO, Mike Metcalfe, said that the company’s extensive experience made it well-suited to carry out the important work.

“Ventia has successfully remediated more than 140 major environmental projects over the past 30 years,” Metcalfe said.

“We look forward to partnering with Transport for NSW on the Parramatta light rail project, ensuring the proposed light rail depot site is suitable for future commercial and industrial use.”

The remediation works will occur in two stages, with the first expected to be complete in early 2019 and the latter by the middle of 2020.

The first stage will involve the installation of an underground barrier wall around the site to prevent the movement of groundwater in and out of the site, thereby preventing wider contamination. A groundwater treatment plant will be installed at the site while the barrier is constructed.

The second portion of works will involve the installation of an integrated capping system across the surface of the site.

Liberal Party member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said that the remediation works were an “important first step” in the delivery of the light rail system.

“Managing historical contamination is essential to enable the safe construction and long-term operation of the depot and to protect the environment,” Lee said.

The works form the first of the four major contracts for the delivery of Stage 1 of the Parramatta light rail. Contracts for enabling works, infrastructure works, and the supply, operation and maintenance of the network are currently out to tender.